Virgin Atlantic is launching a year-round direct flight between Tampa International Airport and London’s Heathrow airport.
The airline company announced Wednesday that the new service will start flying four times a week on Nov. 3 but will increase to daily by Nov. 28. Tickets for the new route go on sale on July 13. Return economy fares start at $637 per person.
“Not only does this create another Tampa-London option for our leisure travelers, but there’s a huge upside for our thriving business community to now have a direct connection to the world’s premier business airport,” said Joe Lopano, chief executive of Tampa International Airport, in a statement.
With more than 190,000 seats each year, Virgin Atlantic will be the only airline to directly connect Tampa with London’s busiest airport, London Heathrow. The new route joins the airline’s other Florida flights — four daily services to Orlando and two to Miami.
British Airways flies to London’s Gatwick Airport from Tampa.
“Florida is very much a firm favorite for our customers ever since our first flight to Miami back in 1986. With the popular theme parks and the stunning beaches of St Pete and Clearwater within easy reach, we know it’s an area our customers will love to explore,” said Juha Järvinen, chief commercial officer at Virgin Atlantic.
Local and state business leaders have touted the news as a “game-changer” for the local economy.
More than 100 U.K. businesses are based in the Tampa Bay area, according to Tampa Bay Chamber President and chief executive Bob Rohrlack. “As our region grows, this kind of world-class connection will be key to sustaining a robust business community that thrives on international commerce,” he said in a statement.
But nationwide, thousands have faced slowed down summer travel because of flight delays and cancellations, and prices made more expensive by high fuel prices. Last month, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg held a virtual meeting with airline executives, pressing them on plans for heading off disruptions this summer.
On Wednesday, the system appeared to be bouncing back after July 4 disruptions. Still, 500 flights into, within or out of the country were canceled Tuesday and more than 5,500 were delayed, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.
Roughly 45% of all international visitors to America last year touched down in the Sunshine State, the highest any state has ever achieved, said Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young.
“This new Virgin Atlantic route will play an integral role in continuing our growth and increasing the economic impact that international travelers have on the Tampa Bay region and the state,” she said in a statement.